Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

On the 4th of July General Holmes, with an army of eight or nine
thousand men belonging to the trans-Mississippi department, made
an attack upon Helena, Arkansas. He was totally defeated by
General Prentiss, who was holding Helena with less than
forty-two hundred soldiers. Holmes reported his loss at 1,636,
of which 173 were killed; but as Prentiss buried 400, Holmes
evidently understated his losses. The Union loss was 57 killed,
127 wounded, and between 30 and 40 missing. This was the last
effort on the part of the Confederacy to raise the siege of

On the third, as soon as negotiations were commenced, I notified
Sherman and directed him to be ready to take the offensive
against Johnston, drive him out of the State and destroy his
army if he could. Steele and Ord were directed at the same time
to be in readiness to join Sherman as soon as the surrender took
place. Of this Sherman was notified.

I rode into Vicksburg with the troops, and went to the river to
exchange congratulations with the navy upon our joint victory.
At that time I found that many of the citizens had been living
under ground. The ridges upon which Vicksburg is built, and
those back to the Big Black, are composed of a deep yellow clay
of great tenacity. Where roads and streets are cut through,
perpendicular banks are left and stand as well as if composed of
stone. The magazines of the enemy were made by running
passage-ways into this clay at places where there were deep
cuts. Many citizens secured places of safety for their families
by carving out rooms in these embankments. A door-way in these
cases would be cut in a high bank, starting from the level of
the road or street, and after running in a few feet a room of
the size required was carved out of the clay, the dirt being
removed by the door-way. In some instances I saw where two
rooms were cut out, for a single family, with a door-way in the
clay wall separating them. Some of these were carpeted and
furnished with considerable elaboration. In these the occupants
were fully secure from the shells of the navy, which were dropped
into the city night and dav without intermission.

I returned to my old headquarters outside in the afternoon, and
did not move into the town until the sixth. On the afternoon of
the fourth I sent Captain Wm. M. Dunn of my staff to Cairo, the
nearest point where the telegraph could be reached, with a
dispatch to the general-in-chief. It was as follows:

“The enemy surrendered this morning. The only terms allowed is
their parole as prisoners of war. This I regard as a great
advantage to us at this moment. It saves, probably, several
days in the capture, and leaves troops and transports ready for
immediate service. Sherman, with a large force, moves
immediately on Johnston, to drive him from the State. I will
send troops to the relief of Banks, and return the 9th army
corps to Burnside.”

This news, with the victory at Gettysburg won the same day,
lifted a great load of anxiety from the minds of the President,
his Cabinet and the loyal people all over the North. The fate
of the Confederacy was sealed when Vicksburg fell. Much hard
fighting was to be done afterwards and many precious lives were
to be sacrificed; but the MORALE was with the supporters of the
Union ever after.

I at the same time wrote to General Banks informing him of the
fall and sending him a copy of the terms; also saying I would
send him all the troops he wanted to insure the capture of the
only foothold the enemy now had on the Mississippi River.
General Banks had a number of copies of this letter printed, or
at least a synopsis of it, and very soon a copy fell into the
hands of General Gardner, who was then in command of Port
Hudson. Gardner at once sent a letter to the commander of the
National forces saying that he had been informed of the
surrender of Vicksburg and telling how the information reached
him. He added that if this was true, it was useless for him to
hold out longer. General Banks gave him assurances that
Vicksburg had been surrendered, and General Gardner surrendered
unconditionally on the 9th of July. Port Hudson with nearly
6,000 prisoners, 51 guns, 5,000 small-arms and other stores fell
into the hands of the Union forces: from that day to the close
of the rebellion the Mississippi River, from its source to its
mouth, remained in the control of the National troops.

Pemberton and his army were kept in Vicksburg until the whole
could be paroled. The paroles were in duplicate, by
organization (one copy for each, Federals and Confederates), and
signed by the commanding officers of the companies or
regiments. Duplicates were also made for each soldier and
signed by each individually, one to be retained by the soldier
signing and one to be retained by us. Several hundred refused
to sign their paroles, preferring to be sent to the North as
prisoners to being sent back to fight again. Others again kept
out of the way, hoping to escape either alternative.

Pemberton appealed to me in person to compel these men to sign
their paroles, but I declined. It also leaked out that many of
the men who had signed their paroles, intended to desert and go
to their homes as soon as they got out of our lines. Pemberton
hearing this, again appealed to me to assist him. He wanted
arms for a battalion, to act as guards in keeping his men
together while being marched to a camp of instruction, where he
expected to keep them until exchanged. This request was also
declined. It was precisely what I expected and hoped that they
would do. I told him, however, that I would see that they
marched beyond our lines in good order. By the eleventh, just
one week after the surrender, the paroles were completed and the
Confederate garrison marched out. Many deserted, and fewer of
them were ever returned to the ranks to fight again than would
have been the case had the surrender been unconditional and the
prisoners sent to the James River to be paroled.

As soon as our troops took possession of the city guards were
established along the whole line of parapet, from the river
above to the river below. The prisoners were allowed to occupy
their old camps behind the intrenchments. No restraint was put
upon them, except by their own commanders. They were rationed
about as our own men, and from our supplies. The men of the two
armies fraternized as if they had been fighting for the same
cause. When they passed out of the works they had so long and
so gallantly defended, between lines of their late antagonists,
not a cheer went up, not a remark was made that would give
pain. Really, I believe there was a feeling of sadness just
then in the breasts of most of the Union soldiers at seeing the
dejection of their late antagonists.

The day before the departure the following order was issued:

“Paroled prisoners will be sent out of here to-morrow. They
will be authorized to cross at the railroad bridge, and move
from there to Edward’s Ferry, (*14) and on by way of Raymond.
Instruct the commands to be orderly and quiet as these prisoners
pass, to make no offensive remarks, and not to harbor any who
fall out of ranks after they have passed.”



The capture of Vicksburg, with its garrison, ordnance and
ordnance stores, and the successful battles fought in reaching
them, gave new spirit to the loyal people of the North. New
hopes for the final success of the cause of the Union were
inspired. The victory gained at Gettysburg, upon the same day,
added to their hopes. Now the Mississippi River was entirely in
the possession of the National troops; for the fall of Vicksburg
gave us Port Hudson at once. The army of northern Virginia was
driven out of Pennsylvania and forced back to about the same
ground it occupied in 1861. The Army of the Tennessee united
with the Army of the Gulf, dividing the Confederate States

The first dispatch I received from the government after the fall
of Vicksburg was in these words:

“I fear your paroling the prisoners at Vicksburg, without actual
delivery to a proper agent as required by the seventh article of
the cartel, may be construed into an absolute release, and that
the men will immediately be placed in the ranks of the enemy.
Such has been the case elsewhere. If these prisoners have not
been allowed to depart, you will detain them until further

Halleck did not know that they had already been delivered into
the hands of Major Watts, Confederate commissioner for the
exchange of prisoners.

At Vicksburg 31,600 prisoners were surrendered, together with
172 cannon about 60,000 muskets and a large amount of
ammunition. The small-arms of the enemy were far superior to
the bulk of ours. Up to this time our troops at the West had
been limited to the old United States flint-lock muskets changed
into percussion, or the Belgian musket imported early in the
war–almost as dangerous to the person firing it as to the one
aimed at–and a few new and improved arms. These were of many
different calibers, a fact that caused much trouble in
distributing ammunition during an engagement. The enemy had
generally new arms which had run the blockade and were of
uniform caliber. After the surrender I authorized all colonels
whose regiments were armed with inferior muskets, to place them
in the stack of captured arms and replace them with the
latter. A large number of arms turned in to the Ordnance
Department as captured, were thus arms that had really been used
by the Union army in the capture of Vicksburg.

In this narrative I have not made the mention I should like of
officers, dead and alive, whose services entitle them to special
mention. Neither have I made that mention of the navy which its
services deserve. Suffice it to say, the close of the siege of
Vicksburg found us with an army unsurpassed, in proportion to
its numbers, taken as a whole of officers and men. A military
education was acquired which no other school could have given.
Men who thought a company was quite enough for them to command
properly at the beginning, would have made good regimental or
brigade commanders; most of the brigade commanders were equal to
the command of a division, and one, Ransom, would have been equal
to the command of a corps at least. Logan and Crocker ended the
campaign fitted to command independent armies.

General F. P. Blair joined me at Milliken’s Bend a full-fledged
general, without having served in a lower grade. He commanded a
division in the campaign. I had known Blair in Missouri, where I
had voted against him in 1858 when he ran for Congress. I knew
him as a frank, positive and generous man, true to his friends
even to a fault, but always a leader. I dreaded his coming; I
knew from experience that it was more difficult to command two
generals desiring to be leaders than it was to command one army
officered intelligently and with subordination. It affords me
the greatest pleasure to record now my agreeable disappointment
in respect to his character. There was no man braver than he,
nor was there any who obeyed all orders of his superior in rank
with more unquestioning alacrity. He was one man as a soldier,
another as a politician.

The navy under Porter was all it could be, during the entire
campaign. Without its assistance the campaign could not have
been successfully made with twice the number of men engaged. It
could not have been made at all, in the way it was, with any
number of men without such assistance. The most perfect harmony
reigned between the two arms of the service. There never was a
request made, that I am aware of, either of the flag-officer or
any of his subordinates, that was not promptly complied with.

The campaign of Vicksburg was suggested and developed by
circumstances. The elections of 1862 had gone against the
prosecution of the war. Voluntary enlistments had nearly ceased
and the draft had been resorted to; this was resisted, and a
defeat or backward movement would have made its execution
impossible. A forward movement to a decisive victory was
necessary. Accordingly I resolved to get below Vicksburg, unite
with Banks against Port Hudson, make New Orleans a base and, with
that base and Grand Gulf as a starting point, move our combined
forces against Vicksburg. Upon reaching Grand Gulf, after
running its batteries and fighting a battle, I received a letter
from Banks informing me that he could not be at Port Hudson under
ten days, and then with only fifteen thousand men. The time was
worth more than the reinforcements; I therefore determined to
push into the interior of the enemy’s country.

With a large river behind us, held above and below by the enemy,
rapid movements were essential to success. Jackson was captured
the day after a new commander had arrived, and only a few days
before large reinforcements were expected. A rapid movement
west was made; the garrison of Vicksburg was met in two
engagements and badly defeated, and driven back into its
stronghold and there successfully besieged. It looks now as
though Providence had directed the course of the campaign while
the Army of the Tennessee executed the decree.

Upon the surrender of the garrison of Vicksburg there were three
things that required immediate attention. The first was to send
a force to drive the enemy from our rear, and out of the
State. The second was to send reinforcements to Banks near Port
Hudson, if necessary, to complete the triumph of opening the
Mississippi from its source to its mouth to the free navigation
of vessels bearing the Stars and Stripes. The third was to
inform the authorities at Washington and the North of the good
news, to relieve their long suspense and strengthen their
confidence in the ultimate success of the cause they had so much
at heart.

Soon after negotiations were opened with General Pemberton for
the surrender of the city, I notified Sherman, whose troops
extended from Haines’ Bluff on the left to the crossing of the
Vicksburg and Jackson road over the Big Black on the right, and
directed him to hold his command in readiness to advance and
drive the enemy from the State as soon as Vicksburg
surrendered. Steele and Ord were directed to be in readiness to
join Sherman in his move against General Johnston, and Sherman
was advised of this also. Sherman moved promptly, crossing the
Big Black at three different points with as many columns, all
concentrating at Bolton, twenty miles west of Jackson.

Johnston heard of the surrender of Vicksburg almost as soon as
it occurred, and immediately fell back on Jackson. On the 8th
of July Sherman was within ten miles of Jackson and on the 11th
was close up to the defences of the city and shelling the
town. The siege was kept up until the morning of the 17th, when
it was found that the enemy had evacuated during the night. The
weather was very hot, the roads dusty and the water bad.
Johnston destroyed the roads as he passed and had so much the
start that pursuit was useless; but Sherman sent one division,
Steele’s, to Brandon, fourteen miles east of Jackson.

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